Egyptian protesters turned to the army and to a retired diplomat to maintain momentum in efforts to unseat Hosni Mubarak, but as the president’s Western backers called for change he met the generals who can keep him in power.
The outcome of six days of unrest, which has killed more than 100 people, rocked the Middle East and rattled global investors, hung in the balance. Troops have let Egyptians bellow their rage at Mubarak’s 30 years of autocracy. But the generals have yet to show whether they will keep him on or ease him out.
Thousands gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to acclaim Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, as the man to lead a transition to democracy — a reform Mubarak’s U.S. and European allies also demanded in ever clearer terms.
“Change is coming in the next few days,” Baradei told the crowd, who again defied a night-time curfew and mingled easily with soldiers in U.S.-built tanks who looked on patiently.
“You have taken back your rights and what we have begun, cannot go back,” he said. “We have one main demand — the end of the regime and the beginning of a new stage, a new Egypt.”
There was little of the violence seen in previous days.
Baradei, claiming endorsement from opposition groups which range from Twitter-savvy students to the mass Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, said he had a mandate to speak to the army and organize a handover to a national unity coalition.